Monthly Archives: May 2009

Taiwan poised to become even greener

Like the United States, Taiwan is expending vast resources to develop its green energy sector and decrease its carbon emissions. As part of Taiwan’s stimulus plan, 10 percent of its current four-year US$15 billion public construction expansion also includes expenditure on green or environmentally friendly technologies.

Taiwan is already ahead of many countries in instigating policies to promote a green lifestyle. President Ma Ying-jeou has made it known that building a low-carbon society is one of his administration’s priorities. At the National Energy Conference held on April 15th, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan re-iterated Taiwan’s commitment towards building a “low carbon-emission homeland.”

Reduce, re-use, recycle

When visitors arrive for the World Games in Kaohsiung this July, they will experience the harbor city’s gleaming new 55,000-seat main stadium, a truly innovative green building. With more solar panels on its roof than any other building in Taiwan, it can meet 80 percent of its electric needs during events. The stadium also has other environmental “firsts” such as locally-made and fully recyclable construction materials, a rainwater harvesting system, an advanced wastewater treatment plant, sensor light-emitting diodes, an on-site trash sorting center and a building design that helps it blend in with its surrounding environment. The stadium is truly one of a kind and the envy of environmental designers.

Taiwan’s environmental policies do not only apply to a showcase building, but trickle down to how people sort garbage and heat domestic water. In Taiwan’s densely populated cities, cutting carbon dioxide emissions is even more important. As an incentive, central and local governments have offered subsidies for households to purchase solar powered water heaters. So far, 433,000 households in Taiwan have taken advantage of government subsidies, thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 350,000 tons per year. By 2012, 570,000 Taiwanese families will have solar water heaters, further reducing harmful carbon dioxide emissions.

Coupled with greener energy sources, a sound environmental plan must also include new ways to reduce and reuse waste. In Taiwan, most local governments charge a garbage collection fee attached to residents’ water bills. In Taipei, Taiwan’s capital with a population of almost three million, the fee is attached to the sale of trash bags. According to the Environmental Protection Bureau of the Taipei City Government, the volume of waste has plummeted since the implementation of the per bag trash collection fee policy in 2000.

In conjunction with sound waste management policies, Taiwan has instigated stringent rules regarding its recycling program, requiring residents to sort their garbage into three categories – ordinary garbage, recyclables and food scraps. Since 2005, garbage that is not properly separated is rejected, and violators are fined between US$36 to US$180. Random checks of garbage bags take place to ensure that everyone abides by the rules.

Renewable energy gets the go-ahead

Over the next five years, Taiwan’s government will start an ambitious project to transform the island into a low carbon emission society by investing US$1.33 billion in the development of green energy industries, especially in solar energy and light emitting diode (LED) technology. The goal is to turn Taiwan into the world’s largest supplier of LED modules, solar cells and panels, and a major producer of electric vehicles in the Asian Pacific region.

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MEA), US$753 million will be allocated to the development of renewable energy and towards subsidizing the installation of energy-saving devices. Another US$629 million will be used for research and development of green energy technologies, which the government hopes will stimulate a further US$6 billion in private investment over the next five years.The project will cover industries focusing on solar energy, LED lights, wind power, biomass fuel, hydrogen power, fuel cells, electric vehicles, and energy information and communication technology. “By 2015, the green energy sector is expected to create 110,000 jobs in Taiwan each year,” said Yiin Chii-ming, the Minister of Economic.

Taiwan’s new project is expected to transform green energy industries into a new industrial sector with an annual output value of over US$19.59 billion. The government’s aim is to replicate the semiconductor manufacturing boom of the 1980s and the optoelectronic success of the 1990s.

While considering carbon dioxide reduction, Taiwan must consider balancing environmental protection with economic development. There are many different methods of generating renewable energy using the wind and ocean wave power. Ideas include erecting wind turbines in the ocean, using the ocean’s thermal energy, ocean wave energy and ocean current energy. In as much as all these ideas have potential, they are also cutting-edge areas that need to be studied further to determine their viability.

Nuclear free not an option – yet

On the development of nuclear energy, Premier Liu stressed that with three nuclear power plants in operation and a fourth under construction, the controversial form of energy is a ‘transitional option’ in the process of Taiwan’s metamorphosis into a low-carbon society. He made the comments in response to protests by environmentalists and anti-nuclear power activists over the government’s energy policy.

Former president of Academia Sinica, Yuan T. Lee, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986, and delivered a keynote speech at the National Energy Conference, said he did support a nuclear free homeland before, but he agrees now that based on Taiwan’s current situation, nuclear free is impossible to achieve in the first half of this century.

Traditional approach – plant at tree

Also speaking at the National Energy Conference, President Ma included some low-tech solutions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through a massive tree-planting plan. He proposed increasing the tree planting areas to six million acres in eight years through the designation of various green parks in Taiwan.

Taiwan’s progress towards developing green energy sources and a more sustainable country is an active process. Changes can include merely converting all the island’s traffic lights (around 700,000) to energy-saving LED by 2011 or tackling innovative energy frontiers. For now, by following the government’s course of action, carbon dioxide emissions would be cut by 36.5 percent by 2020 and 59.6 percent by 2025.

River Cats to host Taiwanese Night on May 15th

The Sacramento River Cats, a minor league baseball team, will host a Taiwanese Night with River Cats infielder Yung-Chi Chen and Albuquerque Isotopes infielder Chin-Lun Hu on Thursday night, May 15th. The pre-game meet-and-greet will take place at the Raley Field Foul Ball Patio from 6:15 to 6:45 pm. As part of Taiwanese Night, Manfred Peng, the director of press division of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco, will throw the honorary first pitch at 7pm. The tourism division of TECO will provide up to 100 guests at the meeting with Taiwanese souvenirs to promote the island’s sights.

For more information about Thursday’s game between the Sacramento River Cats and the Albuquerque Isotopes, please visit:

Taiwan’s chief representative speaks at Stanford

After eight years of surprises, Taiwan’s top diplomat said on May 4th that his first priority is to restore mutual trust with Washington, DC. Speaking with Dr. Larry Diamond, the director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University, Taiwan’s chief US representative, Jason Yuan, addressed some 50 scholars, students and political observers during his Bay Area stop.

After taking office last May, President Ma Ying-jeou worked to restore mutual trust with the US. Instead of a big splash, he kept a low profile when he made his US transit stops on his way to and from Latin American last August. In cross-strait matters, Ma has strived for rapprochement with China by resuming high-level talks between Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and Beijing’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS). As a result, Yuan said, Taiwan has been invited to take part in the forthcoming World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer. After trying to gain participation since 1997, Taiwan will finally be included.

In response to questions about the possibility of signing a 60-year peace treaty with China and how the island’s 23 million Taiwanese would react, Yuan said if there were to be a treaty, the first condition would be that China should remove the missiles along the Taiwan Strait – now estimated to number more than 1000. Ma doesn’t expect to see the day of unification, the peace treaty will not necessarily lead to unification or independence. The future would be decided by all of Taiwan’s people, not by any single political leader, stressed Yuan.

This is one of the latest events by the Program on Democracy in Taiwan, which is sponsored by the CDDRL, in conjunction with the Hoover Institution. Initiated in the fall of 2005, the program studies the political and social changes, and international challenges confronting democracy in Taiwan, including cross-strait relations.

Chiang Hsiu-chiung’s debut film Artemisia wins SFIFF’s Golden Gate Award

On May 6th, Taiwan’s film director Chiang Hsiu-chiung was honored by the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) with a Golden Gate Award in the Television Narrative Feature category for her debut film Artemisia. Upon receiving the award, Chiang thanked the festival organizers for the award, the Public Television Service in Taiwan for giving her the opportunity to direct, and the Press Division of TECO for its support.

Chiang is no stranger to SFIFF. As a graduate student in theater and screenwriting at the Taipei National University of the Arts, Chiang Hsiu-chiung delivered a Golden Horse-nominated performance in Edward Yang’s epic A Brighter Summer Day (SFIFF 1992). At the 52nd festival, audiences were able to enjoy Chiang’s talent again, this time from behind the scenes, as the director of Artemisia.

Chiang’s well-script narrative is about three generations of resilient women, focusing on 58-year old Ai-tsao (Artemisia in Chinese). As a young woman, Ai-tsao defied her conservative family to marry a man some 20 years older than her. Twenty years later, she finds herself struggling to accept her argumentative mother, her unmarried daughter’s mixed-race baby and her closeted gay son. Amid all the turmoil, she works towards accepting and preserving her family.

Panel Discussion on May 28th: A New Era for Taiwan-PRC Relations

Please join a symposium hosted by Asia Society, along with the University of California-Berkeley’s Institute of East Asian Studies, the University of San Francisco’s Center for the Pacific Rim, and the World Affairs Council of Northern California, for an in-depth look into Taiwan’s new era.

After Ma Ying-jeau took office as the president of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 2008, he shifted away from the confrontational policies towards China of the previous administration. Since then, he has introduced a number of important rapprochement measures, including resumption of cross-strait talks, establishing direct flights and sea transportation, and announcing a “diplomatic truce” with China.

With these changes, tensions between Taiwan and the PRC are now at their lowest level in many years. The panel of distinguished guests will discuss Ma’s new approach and proposals in the face of the extreme global downturn to sign a free-trade agreement with China, which would further remove trade and investment barriers on both sides.

Still, the new policies have not decreased the 1000-plus missiles targeting the island. By treating China as both a threat and an opportunity, Ma is walking a tightrope in developing new relations with Beijing, yet mindful of the criticism and opposition at home.


Chien-Min Chao, Deputy Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan

Chong-pin Lin, Professor, Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, Tamkang University, Taiwan; former Deputy Minister of Defense, Taiwan

Lowell Dittmer, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California at Berkeley

Robert Kapp (moderator), President of Robert A. Kapp & Associate, Inc.; former President, US-China Business Council

Time, Place & Cost:
Thursday, May 28, 2009
5:30 pm for Registration & Reception
6:00 – 7:30 pm for Program

K&L Gates LLP

San Francisco, CA

Admission: $10 for Asia Society/Co-sponsor members
$15 for Non-members$8 for Students/Seniors
To register, please call or visit:

Envisioning Taiwan with Films and Photos at SF Public Library

The San Francisco Public Library, in conjunction with TECO, invites you to explore the social and technological evolution of contemporary Taiwan. The program opens with a photo exhibition by Tsai Wen-hsyang and Ga Photo Group from Taiwan. The collection captures the integration of technology in every aspect of island life, transforming the once agrarian society into a truly digital nation. The exhibition will be open for viewing in the Chinese Center on the 3rd floor of the Main Library from May 22nd to June 25th.

The Main Library will also host a series of Taiwanese movies, both documentaries and feature films in its Lower Level Koret Auditorium on May 23rd and May 30th.

The first documentary film Taiwan Festivals will screen at 2 pm. It will be followed by a feature film Secrets, at 2:40 pm. Secrets, a love story, stars well-known musician Jay Chou. He also co-wrote and directed the movie. The film won many awards in 2007 at the Golden Horse Awards in Taipei.

On May 30th, the film series will continue with For More Sun at 2 pm. The documentary film follows a group of young Taiwanese engineers in their quest to build the fastest solar vehicle for the World Solar Challenge in Australia. The last feature film, Chocolate Rap, will screen at 3:50 pm. It is a light-hearted movie about Choco, a passionate break-dancer who faces off with his conventional-minded dad.

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009
1:00 pm Reception
1:40 pm Lecture-Brief Introduction of Taiwan Film Industry by Manfred Peng, Director of Press Division (TECO)
2:00 pm Taiwan Festivals (28 min) – Documentary
2:40 pm Secrets (102 min) – Feature

Saturday, May 30th, 2009
2:00 pm For More Sun (96 min) – Documentary
3:50 pm Chocolate Rap (83 min) – Feature

Exhibition: From May 22 to June 25, 2009
Main Library, Third Floor, Chinese Center

Film Series
Koret Auditorium, Lower Level, Main Library

The Envisioning Taiwan film series is free of charge, but seating is limited. To request free tickets for the film programs please call 

Taiwan IT firms among world’s best performers

Four Taiwan IT firms rank among the top ten in the world in terms of their performance amid the global economic slowdown, according to Business Week’s annual report. In the June 1st issue, th US magazine listed Inventec Corp., Quanta Computer Inc., Wistron Corp., and Acer Inc. as ranking 4th, 7th, 8th and 10th respectively.

Three US firms are among the top ten, (Amazon – 1st; Oracle – 2nd; and IBM – 5th) while one firm from Germany (SAP – 3rd), India (Bharti Airtel Ltd. – 6th) and China ( – 9th) complete the top ten. To qualify for the top 100 IT firms worldwide, a company’s annual revenue must exceed US$600 million, excluding any monopolies.

In addition to the four companies already mentioned, Taiwan had ten companies ranked in the top 100. These were: High Tech Computer Corp. (ranked 13th), Asustek Computer (ranked 26th), Foxconn Electronics Inc. (ranked 40th), Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. (ranked 48th), Compal Electronics Inc. (ranked 50th), and Simplo Technology Co. (ranked 52nd).

Even with the economic slowdown, the demand for certain products remains strong. The Commercial Times reported that despite a shortage of glass substrates, the outlook for Taiwan’s thin-film-transistor liquid crystal display panel industry remains positive for the third quarter on the back of strong demand. Lee Kun-yao, chairman of AU Optronics Corp., the largest LCD panel maker in Taiwan, said the average capacity utilization at Taiwan’s panel makers was below 50 percent in the first quarter of 2009, and currently stands at over 80 percent.

David Hsieh, vice president of the greater China market at Display Search, expects prices to continue upward into June. TV panels, whose prices remain relatively unchanged, will probably see an increase of at least US$10 per unit in June. In particular, 40-inch and 42-inch panels are both set to rise in price.

Not only do Taiwanese IT companies dominate the top ten, but a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) also places Taiwan as the 6th most innovative country in Asia for the forecast period 2009-2013. According to the United Daily News, Taiwan had an index of 9.44, which is only topped by Japan, which has the highest-ranking index of 10.

Taiwan gains observer status in WHA

Taiwan has finally been invited to participate in the World Health Organization (WHO) as an observer. On April 29th, Taiwan’s Department of Health (DOH) received an invitation from WHO Director-General Margaret Chan to attend the 62nd World Health Assembly (WHA) from May 18th-27th. In response, DOH chief Yeh Ching-chuan will lead a 15-person delegation to Geneva, Switzerland on May 17th. This will be the first time Taiwan will participate in the WHA since losing its UN membership to China in 1971.

Since 1997, Taiwan has worked hard to rally support for representation at the WHO. After 13 failed attempts, President Ma Ying-jeou attributed the victory to the joint efforts of the public and the political parties at home, and the support of the international community and the goodwill of the “mainland authorities.” In particular, Ma thanked the United States, Japan, the European Union, Southeast Asian nations, Australia and New Zealand for their help in securing participation for Taiwan.

The US State Department spokesman Robert Wood welcomed the news. “We have long supported Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the WHO, including observer status at the WHA. “ In speaking to reporter in Washington, he continued by saying, “We look forward to the participation of Taiwan at the WHA and the benefits Taiwan’s public health expertise will bring to the international community.”

On the opposite Coast, The Seattle Times headlined its May 4th editorial with “Welcome Taiwan into the World Health Assembly” and concluded by stating, “Fighting epidemics cannot be put off. It has to be done with immediacy, and the jurisdictions have to cooperate. That China and Taiwan now do so is a big step forward.” The complete editorial can be found at

As an observer in the WHA, Taiwan now will be able to maintain direct contact with the WHO to exchange information on disease control, prevention, and other health issues for the benefit of the 23 million people on the island. Early last month, Taiwan was included in the WHO’s International Health Regulation (IHR) which tracks and controls infectious diseases around the globe.

In addition to the IHR, Yang Che-ming, the director-general of the Bureau of International Cooperation under the DOH, also mentioned four other information sharing mechanisms. They include the WHO’s Food Safety Network (INFOSAN), Global Outbreak Alert Response Networks (GOARN), the Stop TB Partnership, The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the International Collaboration and Prevention Combating Counterfeit Drugs (IMPACT).

It is still too early to speculate how quickly and deeply Taiwan will be involved in WHO activities since the degree of each observer’s participation varies. “How Taiwan should take part in the WHA as an observer and to what degree will require further discussion,” Yang said. Taiwan will join six other WHA observers who can speak at the assembly, but cannot vote. They include the Holy See, the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent Movement.

Although Taiwan’s new observer status was met with an overwhelmingly positive response on the island, Taiwan’s opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), feared that more of Taiwan’s sovereignty was traded to gain the invitation.

The DPP is concerned that the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) consulted with China for permission, per the 2005 secret memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the WHO and China, requiring all contact with Taiwan to take place through Beijing first. DPP legislator William Lai called on the government to be more forthcoming about the secret negotiations for Taiwan’s participation.

In reassuring the DPP, Vice Foreign Minister Andrew Hsia has said that “no secret deals” were made between Taiwan and China, and that Taiwan’s observer status came “without conditions.” Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHA this month will mean Taiwanese reporters will again be granted press passes to cover the activities of the WHA. Since 2002, Taiwanese reporters have been prevented from attending sessions of the WHO or WHA.

Third round of cross-strait talks achieve success

On April 26, Taiwan signed three pacts and one joint statement with China in the third round of cross-strait negotiations after President Ma ying-jeou took office last May. Meeting in Nanjing, Chiang Pin-kung represented Taiwan as the chairman of Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and Chen Yunlin represented China as the president of Beijing’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS). This time, the two sides forged ties to combat criminal activities, set guidelines for financial cooperation and increase direct links.

Among the three pacts was one aimed at increasing the weekly direct flights between the two sides from 108 to 270. China agreed to add six more destinations to the 21 cities it currently serves. Cargo flights will also increase from 30 per month to 112. In order to accommodate the increased number of flights, the two sides agreed to set up a new southern route between Taipei and Guangzhou, and a new northern route between Taipei and Shanghai.

In the second pact, both sides agreed to work together to maintain financial stability. They agreed to cooperate on the supervision of financial and monetary management and to begin negotiations on giving access to their respective markets by banks, stock brokers and insurance companies on each side. Analysts believe this agreement will pave the way for a memorandum of understanding on financial regulatory cooperation between Taiwan and China, which will lead to the opening of their markets to each other’s financial institutions.

The third pact outlined cooperative efforts to combat crime, with both sides agreeing to help serve judicial documents, collect evidence, and confirm each other’s civil judgments and arbitration awards. Most significantly, the two sides agreed to repatriate criminals and suspected criminals. The pact was hailed as a milestone because China has long been a haven for Taiwanese criminals in the absence of a repatriation agreement.

In the joint statement, Taiwan welcomed Chinese investment and promised to formulate regulations to facilitate this process. On its part, China agreed to support private investment in Taiwan, and to encourage Chinese enterprises to explore investment opportunities in Taiwan.

The next round of talks will be held in Taiwan before the end of the year and will include discussions on fisheries cooperation, quarantine and inspection of agricultural products, cooperation on standard operating procedures and certification, and prevention of double taxation.

When polled by the Taipei-based China Times, 44 percent of the 763 interviewees were satisfied with the results of the talks, while 22 percent were not. As for the opening of Taiwan’s market to mainland Chinese investment, 53 percent supported it, seeing it as a plus for Taiwan’s economy and 22 percent opposed it, not wanting more dependency on the mainland.

A China Times editorial, urged the government to be cautious and to take gradual steps, so it can minimize risks and protect Taiwan’s national security. It said the agreements are reached due to the fact that both sides adopted an attitude of ‘economy first, politics later’. Future talks will be much tougher when both sides have to touch on political issues.

Ma proposed “new geographic thinking” via video conference

In a video-conference at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on April 22nd, Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou urged the US to maintain the sale of defensive arms to the island in accordance to the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). He spoke during the center’s program “The Taiwan Relations Act: Turning a New Chapter” celebrating the TRA’s 30th anniversary. American scholars and political observers, including Richard Armitage, former US Deputy Secretary of the State, attended the event.

The TRA was passed by the US congress in 1979 to protect American interests in Taiwan after Washington established full diplomatic ties with Beijing. According to the Act, the sale of defensive weapons to Taiwan has been a stabilizing force in the Taiwan Strait. It has provided Taiwan with the security to build a stable democracy and a prosperous economy.

For the first time Ma proposed “a new geographic thinking” for Taiwan. He said, “Since the outset of my administration, my focus has been more on Taiwan’s geography rather than on its history.” He noted, Taiwan is located at the center of a “dense and rich network of economic powerhouses,” with the US, the world’s largest economy and sole superpower to the east, and the second, third and fifth largest economies, Japan, mainland China, and the ASEAN nations to the north, west and south respectively. Ma stressed the need for Taiwan to take full advantage of its geographic good fortune to link up with all the members of this “super economic network” for a “multifaceted win-win situation.”

To make the most of Taiwan’s geographical advantage, Ma has improved relations with China, inaugurating cross-strait direct flights, welcoming mainland Chinese tourists, and resuming high-level talks between Taipei’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and its mainland counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS).

At the heart of his idea is the prospective creation of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taipei and Beijing. With the ECFA, Ma believes Taiwan can bolster and safeguard its competitive edge in the mainland market, and in turn, in the greater global market.

He rebutted the accusation that the proposed signing of the ECFA with Beijing would be equivalent to unification with China. “Taiwan is a democratic country. No one can betray Taiwan. In the six agreements signed between SEF and ARATS (since Ma took office), none hurts the sovereignty of Taiwan,” he said.

Since Ma’s inauguration in May 2008, Ma has taken steps to reconcile with Beijing by declaring a “diplomatic truce” and focusing on issues that have yielded real and substantial rewards. In particular, his push for Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly (WHA) has met with success, with China now willing to allow Taiwan observer status.

With this understanding approach to China, Ma expects to restore mutual trust and cooperation with other countries, especially the US. The future prospects of Taiwan-US relations will focus on issues of low politics with an emphasis on pragmatism.